Reed Sheppard can do almost anything for a team that needs everything

Detroit Bad Boys

The Detroit Pistons are at an undeniable low point of their rebuild. They are coming off of a 14-win season, and while Cade Cunningham has flashed star potential, he can’t do it all himself. He needs help. The young core in Detroit is talented, but they don’t necessarily fit together well to form a balanced group, which leaves a lot of weaknesses that are consistently exposed. When your weaknesses are everything, get yourself a guy who can do everything. Kentucky freshman guard Reed Sheppard had a spectacular season for the Wildcats. Not only did he emerge as the best shooter in the draft, but also as an impactful defender and skilled passer. While his size and lack of length could cause concern, the fit in Detroit would be far too good to pass up with the #5 overall draft selection.

Scouting Report

In 28.9 minutes per game, Reed Sheppard averaged 12.5 points, 4.5 assists, 4.1 rebounds, 2.5 steals, and 0.7 blocks while converting on 55.5% of his two-point attempts, 52.1% of his three-point attempts, and 83.1% of his free-throw attempts. The level of Sheppard’s shooting really cannot be understated. In 33 games, he attempted 144 three-pointers and made an unbelievable 52% of them. He was shooting lights out the entire season, and it felt like everyone was waiting for him to cool off. It never happened. His two most impressive games beyond the arc this season included a 7-of-8 game against Stonehill and a 7-of-10 game against Tennessee. Not only can he create for himself, but he is great off-ball when it comes to getting open and is the best knockdown shooter you can find, whether he’s spotting up, shooting off of movement, or even pulling up in transition.

Sheppard is a skilled passer and showcased this consistently throughout the season, recording five or more assists in 16 of his 33 games, including two games with 11 assists. His assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.25:1 is a promising indicator that he can facilitate without turning the ball over at the next level. Some in the draft community believe he may be able to play point guard in the NBA, and while I wouldn’t bet against him, I see him as more of an elite secondary facilitator rather than the primary offensive initiator.

His ability to play the passing lanes on defense was on display all season as he led the SEC in steals per game at 2.5. Adding 0.7 blocks per game is also fairly impressive for a guard, especially one with a six-foot-three wingspan. This speaks to his athleticism which surprised some people at the NBA Combine, when he recorded the best vertical jump of all draft participants with 42 inches. Sheppard’s athleticism also helps him play above his size and make an impact as a rebounder, where he had 17 games with five or more rebounds this season and a high of nine.

Pro comparison: CJ McCollum

Fit in Detroit

When I am considering how to build this team going forward, we have to accept that there are a lot of reasons that we only won 14 games. How far this team can get will depend on how good a team built around Cade Cunningham can be. To do this, you are going to have to make sure that you can surround him with players who complement his game and make his life easier on both ends of the court. If you’re not investing in building around your best player’s strengths, then you aren’t even really trying to build a winning team.

Some people will not be a fan of drafting a guard because that may not be a good sign for Jaden Ivey. I think that Ivey is a good player, but he is an on-ball creator who is at his best when he has the ball in his hands. Cade is also an on-ball creator who needs the ball in his hands. Both of them would benefit by playing next to an off-ball, catch-and-shoot guard rather than another player who overlaps with their skillset. Insert Reed Sheppard and you may have solved some problems. Whether that means you run a three-guard rotation with those three or you choose to move Ivey for a veteran player, this would instantly improve your team’s spacing and defense around Cade.

On offense, Reed Sheppard is everything you are looking for in a guard to pair with Cunningham. A deadly shooter with a quick trigger who is great at getting open and excels in an off-ball role but can also take some pressure off of Cade and handle being on-ball when needed. On the defensive end of the court, there are some questions about how Sheppard will translate to the next level due to his length but most agree he has the instincts and athleticism to at least be an effective team defender. Being paired with a bigger guard like Cunningham would also be ideal for Sheppard to not have to take a bigger matchup.

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